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  • Writer's picturePaullett Golden

Hairstyles of the 1750s

Publication Date: Feb 1, 2021

"Worry not, my lady, for you look irresistible with the sheep's head styling!"

Painting of the sheep's head hairstyle

The 18th century is known for its enormous wigs, but did you know those iconic wigs were only popular for one decade out of the whole of the century? The Heir and The Enchantress takes place two decades before the powdered wigs of epic proportions hit the scene. In fact, it takes place during a time when wigs were not in fashion. This was a response to the previous generation's love of the periwig--how many children must have thought their parents quite silly for wearing those wigs? The 1750s was a response to the Rococo period in many ways from hair to fashion to paintings to name it. We'll be focusing this Research Interests installment on what hairstyles were fashionable during the 1750s. If you think "practical," then you've nailed it!

One of the first points to establish is that women did not wear wigs until 1770, so when we talk about wigs prior to that time, we refer only to men. In the earlier half of the century, men preferred the periwig, which I fondly call the Captain Hook wig because all I envision when I see the wig is Captain Hook. Am I the only one? England looked to France for fashion, be it hair or clothing. King Louis XIV was responsible for the periwig we see the fathers wear in Heir, although the periwig in one form or another was popular before Louis XIV. This page offers a brief look at the periwig and its changing styles over the decades (it was around for a long time). Powder was not fashionable until around 1715, and even then it wasn't exceedingly popular (yet) outside of aristocratic entertainments.

Painting of King Louis XV
King Louis XV

King Louis XV is to thank for the demise of the periwig and the birth of the side curls. By the 1750s, young men did not see the practicality of wearing wigs, especially the long, hot, and burdensome periwig, so they opted for their natural hair, sensibly curled above the ears and powdered (or not powdered--their personal preference). Just as I like to think of the periwig as the Captain Hook style, I think of the King Louis XV side curl style as being the George Washington style--admit it; a clear visual just flashed in your mind, right? Some young men preferred to bag their hair at the nape of the neck and decorate it with a bow, or style it in a ponytail or pigtail with a bow, sometimes with a combo of bag/ponytail/pigtail, side curls, and bow. The style was practical while still being elegant. Men would have long enough hair that they could bag it and curl it, so even though the style was "short," the hair was not.

The same goes for women. Their hair was long enough to curl above the ears, creating a "short" style from long locks. The hairstyle most popular in the 1750s was the tête de mouton, made popular by Madame de Pompadour. These two paintings of Madame de Pompadour will give you a good visual: Boucher 1756 and Boucher 1759. There are plenty of other paintings that show off her style, so just give her name a quick image search, and you'll find more than your heart could ever desire. As with men, some women might leave a few strands loose at the nape of their neck to bow or drape over the shoulder, but most preferred their locks curled above the ears, creating an incredibly practical and no-nonsense style (never mind that it certainly wasn't a no-nonsense effort for the lady's maid to create). This page offers a brief but focused look at the tête de mouton.

This style and those like it remained for another twenty years until it became legal for women to wear wigs, and then we see the cultural shift (and the age old response of children not wanting to dress like their parents). In 1770, the extravagant wigs became popular. By 1790, neither wigs nor powder was popular with the younger generation, thus beginning the Classical look that would increase in popularity by the Regency. Since the other Enchantress novels take place in the 1790 decade, we see our heroes and heroines sporting natural locks without powder, but the older generation still favored their wigs and powder (although not for much longer). Similarly, in Heir, we see the younger generation enjoying natural locks with powder and side curls while the older generation is doggedly sticking to their periwigs.

This page offers a wonderful and invaluable look at the hairstyles throughout the 18th century so that you can see how they change with each decade.

The 1750s generation of young gentlemen and gentlewomen were outdoorsy types, surprisingly. The previous Rococo generation was all about the elaborate and gilded indoor lifestyle, and their fashion and hair exemplified this. Even the portraits painted during that era were of a fashionably dressed individual devoid of background or posing to showcase their most decorative piece of furniture. Check out this painting as an example. In response to the overly ornate Rococo, the generation of young men and women in the 1750s preferred the outdoors--picnics, riding, wilderness walks, etc. Their fashion and hair fit this lifestyle. The portraits painted during this time were typically outside, featuring the person posed next to their favorite horse, a lake, a forest, etc. Check out this painting and collection as an example.

While only featuring a brief paragraph and image or two of the 1750s, this page is one to consider when getting to know the hairstyles of the 18th century.

Makeup is best left for another conversation, as is fashion, but know this: the painted faces and obsession with rouge and patches was not popular until the 1770s, right along with those monumental wigs. That said, it was not uncommon for both men and women to wear cosmetics, along with a beauty patch, but in the 1750s and 1760s, the cosmetics and such were more natural, intending to draw attention to the person's natural beauty, such as a slight pinkening of the cheeks to resemble a blush. In the 1770s, there was nothing natural about the look, and the more outlandish the "paint" the more fashionable. So when you're visualizing our hero, heroine, and their friends, imagine a natural look (or no cosmetics), along with natural hair styled for outdoor adventures.


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